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UTEP to face Colorado State in Sun Bowl Invitational

THE TIP-OFF UTEP (6-6) faces old Western Athletic Conference rival Colorado State (7-4) in the 50th edition of the Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center. The nightcap pits Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-9) versus Jacksonville State (4-8) at 9. The consolation game will be played on Thursday at 5 p.m., followed by the championship at 7. UTEP has posted an all-time record of 76-22 in the Sun Bowl Invitational, which didn?t have a championship game a year ago. The Miners have won titles on 28 occasions, most recently in 2009, and played in the championship game 40 times. The event originated in 1961 as the Sun Carnival Basketball Tournament and took Don Haskins? name in 2009.

UTEP AT A GLANCE The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter) and seven freshmen. UTEP returns just three letterwinners and one starter (senior forward Gabriel McCulley) from last year?s unit that finished 25-10 overall and tied for second place in Conference USA with an 11-5 mark. The Miners lost 82.5 percent of their scoring and 70.6 percent of their rebounding production from the 2010-11 squad, which had eight seniors.

SCOUTING COLORADO STATE The Rams haven?t played since Dec. 22, when they won at Northern Colorado, 92-78, to climb to 7-4 on the year. Colorado State will be facing its third Conference USA opponent after beating SMU (75-56) in the Dick?s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off in Palo Alto, Calif. on Nov. 14, and losing to Southern Miss (79-58) at home on Nov. 19. Winners of 19 games a year ago, the Rams return two starters and seven letterwinners from a squad that lost to Fairfield, 62-60, in the first round of the 2011 NIT. Colorado State is led by junior guard Wes Eikmeier (17.3 ppg), junior guard Dorian Green (14.2 ppg) and sophomore forward Greg Smith (11.5 ppg). Sophomore forward Pierce Hornung tops the club in rebounding with a 6.8 average. Colorado State was second in the nation in three-point field goal percentage through the games of Dec. 18. The Rams are firing at a 46.2 percent clip from outside this season led by Green (27-for-46, 58.7 percent).

THE SERIES UTEP and Colorado State have met 70 times previously, with the Miners winning 46 times. However, Wednesday?s game marks the first matchup between the long-time rivals since Feb. 5, 1998, when coach Don Haskins? Miners lost to the Rams in El Paso, 64-58. UTEP is 27-6 all-time versus Colorado State in El Paso. The Rams, however, have won back-to-back games in the Haskins Center (during the 1995-96 & 1997-98 seasons) after losing on 16 of their previous 17 trips to El Paso. UTEP?s Tim Floyd will be coaching against Colorado State for the first time on Wednesday. The Miners are 7-11 against former WAC foes in the Mountain West Conference since the league?s split following the 1998-99 season.

THE LAST MEETING Bryan Christiansen scored 15 points, and Colorado State overcame a nightmarish performance at the foul line (3-for-16) to hand UTEP a 64-58 defeat on Feb. 5, 1998 at the Haskins Center. The Miners fell behind by as many as 14 points (50-36) with 14:05 remaining in the game, and a late rally came up short. Christiansen also led the Rams with six rebounds and five assists. Rico Nelson (16 points) and B.J. Wade (15) both connected on three three-point field goals to lead UTEP?s charge. Sharif Fajardo fell two rebounds shy of a double-double with 14 points and eight boards for the Miners.

UTEP?S LAST GAME John Bohannon tied his career-high with 20 points, and Michael Perez scored 12 points in the final five minutes as UTEP held off Auburn, 83-76, to claim third place at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Sunday in Honolulu. The Miners shot 65 percent in the second half and 53.1 percent on the day and placed five players in double figure scoring for a second straight game. Perez scored 18 points, Jacques Streeter 12, Gabriel McCulley 10 and Cedrick Lang 10. The Miners led 37-31 at the break. Auburn scored the first four points of the second half, and the game was closely contested until the Tigers scored put together a 6-0 spurt to take their largest lead, 50-45, with 12:03 to play. The Miners answered with nine straight points and went up 54-50 on a dunk by Lang with 8:34 left. After Auburn closed to within 60-59 on a three-pointer by Chris Denson with 5:26 remaining, Perez knocked down a triple to key an 8-2 run that ended with the Miners ahead 68-61 and under four minutes to go. Bohannon drove and scored at the 2:49 mark with the Miners nursing a 68-65 lead, and he made a couple of free throws with 50 seconds to play after Auburn cut the deficit to 73-69. McCulley, C.J. Cooper and Perez iced the win with free throws.

UTEP IN THE C-USA STATISTICS (Through games of Dec. 25)

Category Stat Rank Scoring offense 65.0 10 Scoring defense 63.9 7 Scoring margin +1.1 10 Free throw % 69.8 3 Field goal % 46.1 4 Field goal % defense 42.4 10 3-point field goal % 37.0 5 3-point field goal % defense 36.3 12 3-pointers per game 5.6 9 Rebound margin -2.6 12 Blocked shots 3.7 10 Assists 14.3 4 Steals 4.9 11 Turnover margin -0.83 9 Assist/turnover ratio 1.0 4

Individual Category Stat Rank J. Bohannon Free throw % 78.1 7 J. Bohannon Rebounding 5.7 t17 M. Perez 3-pointers per game 1.6 12 M. Perez Field goal % 48.6 9 M. Perez Scoring 12.4 20 J. Streeter Assists 4.7 3 J. Streeter Assist/turnover ratio 2.0 t2 J. Streeter Free throw % 71.7 t12

DOUBLE HONORS FOR PEREZ Sophomore guard Michael Perez was one of five players chosen to the Diamond Head Classic All-Tournament team, and was also appointed co-Conference USA Player of the Week (sharing the honor with Southern Miss senior guard Darnell Dodson). Perez averaging 17.7 points as UTEP captured third place in the Hawaii tournament. He scored a career-high 25 points while playing the full 40 minutes in the Miners? 61-48 win over Clemson. He scored 12 points in the final five minutes, including three three pointers, in UTEP?s 83-76 victory over Auburn. His .600 three-point field goal percentage (9-for-15) in the Diamond Head Classic led all players.

MINERS RACKING UP THE FRESHMAN AWARDS For the third straight time, a UTEP player has been recognized as the Conference USA Freshman of the Week. Julian Washburn earned the honor on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. On Monday, Cedrick Lang was saluted after scoring in double figures in three of four games last week. He tied his season-high with 12 points versus McNeese State and Kansas State. For the week Lang averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, shooting 70 percent from the floor and 68.8 percent from the charity stripe. His .667 field goal percentage (10-for-15) in the Diamond Head Classic tied for best among participating players.

MINERS WRAP UP GRUELING STRETCH UTEP?s run of nine games in 19 days will come to an end with the Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday and Thursday. The Miners have gone 5-2 in the first seven games. Combined with games at Marshall (Eastern time zone) on Jan. 4 and Tulsa (Central time zone) on Jan. 11, the Miners will play at least one game in every domestic time zone during a one-month period that started with a 73-69 win over NM State on Dec. 11.

PRETTY GOOD DECEMBER SO FAR The Miners have posted a 5-2 mark in a December that will see them play nine games for the first time since 2000. UTEP has a chance to post seven December victories for the first time since going 8-1 in the month 11 years ago.

A COUPLE OF OFFENSIVE FIRSTS UTEP has scored 70 points in back-to-back games for the first time this season, putting 70 on the board against Kansas State and 83 versus Auburn in the Diamond Head Classic. Even more impressive, the Miners have placed five players in double-figure scoring in consecutive contests for the first time since Dec 19 & 21, 2009, when they achieved the feat versus Alcorn State and Oklahoma.

HOT SHOOTING CARRIES MINERS PAST TIGERS UTEP shot a season-high 53.1 percent in Sunday?s 83-76 win over Auburn. UTEP shot 65 percent (13-for-20) in the second half for the first time since March 11, 2011 versus Tulsa, when it was 14-for-21 (.667) from the field over the final 20 minutes. The Miners have shot 50 percent or better in five of their last seven games with 48.8 percent (167-for-342) marksmanship during that span.

?BO? STEPS UP HIS GAME Sophomore center John Bohannon tied his career-high with 20 points against Auburn on Sunday. He also scored 20 versus Western New Mexico on Dec. 28, 2010. Over the last two games (versus K-State & Auburn), Bohannon has been a big-time performer in the second half, scoring 22 of his 30 points and shooting 7-for-7 from the field and 8-for-9 from the charity stripe. Bohannon has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time as a Miner, and three times in the last four contests (11.3 ppg).

?BO? IS REALLY COOKING AT THE LINE TOO John Bohannon has found his rhythm at the free throw line. Over the last five games he is 19-for-21 at the stripe (90.5 percent). In the first 38 games of his Miner career, Bohannon made 40-of-80 charity shots (50 percent).

STREETER SHAKES OFF THE COBWEBS After sitting out the 2010-11 season following his transfer from Cal State Fullerton, junior guard Jacques Streeter is starting to look like the player who averaged 11.1 points in two seasons with the Titans. Streeter has scored in double figures in consecutive games for the second time this season, posting 15 points versus Kansas State and 12 versus Auburn. He made three three-pointers against the Tigers, tying his season-high set versus UC Riverside on Nov. 13. Streeter leads the Miners in free throws made (33) and attempted (46) and went to the line 10 times versus K-State. He has shot a free throw in all but one game this season. Streeter is shooting 71.7 percent from the stripe, including 77.3 percent (17-for-22) in the last six games.

LANG DEVELOPING INTO AN OFFENSIVE THREAT Freshman forward Cedrick Lang scored in double figures once in the first eight games of the season, but has done so three times in the last four games. During that stretch he is averaging 9.8 ppg while shooting 70 percent (14-for-20) from the floor and 68.8 percent (11-for-16) from the line. Lang leads the Miners in blocked shots with 11 and has pulled down five or more rebounds in seven games.

PEREZ HAS BEEN STEADY Sophomore guard Michael Perez has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games (16.8 ppg during that stretch). He has made a three pointer in seven straight contests. And he has shot 81.5 percent (22-for-27) from the line in the last six games. His shooting numbers are solid across the board — 48.6 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from outside and 70 percent from the charity stripe. Perez has also done a much better job taking care of the basketball since committing eight turnovers at UNLV on Dec. 14. He hasn?t had more than two turnovers in any of the five games since despite being on the floor for an average of 32.6 minutes.

WASHBURN ONE OF FOUR C-USA FRESHMEN AVERAGING DOUBLE-FIGURE POINTS Rookie swingman Julian Washburn ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg). He is one of four C-USA freshmen with double-figure scoring averages, joining Houston forward TaShawn Thomas (10.2 ppg) & guard Joseph Young (10.1 ppg), and Tulane guard Ricky Tarrant (12.5 ppg). Washburn leads the Miners in minutes (32.1 avg) and steals (14). He is the only UTEP player to start all 12 games.

McCULLEY?S PRESENCE MEANS A LOT UTEP has been a much better basketball team since senior forward Gabriel McCulley returned from injury to play in the last eight games. Without him, the Miners were 1-3 and averaging 56 points per game. Since then they have posted a 5-3 mark while averaging 69.5 ppg. McCulley is second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg) while shooting 59.6 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from the line. He has played in 114 games for the Miners, scoring in double figures on 14 occasions. UTEP is 72-42 in the 114 games.

COOPER COMES TO THE RESCUE UTEP received some outstanding reserve minutes from freshman guard C.J. Cooper in Hawaii. He scored all of his season-high 11 points in the second half versus Clemson, buried a three pointer against K-State and added seven points in nine minutes versus Auburn. Cooper averaged 7.0 ppg in the tournament with a .538 (7-for-13) field goal percentage, .556 (5-for-9) three-point field goal percentage and 1.000 (2-for-2) free throw percentage. He also committed just two turnovers in 48 minutes.

WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO UTEP?S FREE THROW SHOOTING? The Miners have been on a tear at the charity stripe over the last five games. During that span they have knocked down 92-of-116 freebies (79.3 percent). In the first seven games, UTEP shot 61.1 percent (77-for-126) from the line. The Miners are now shooting 69.8 percent from the line as a team, third-best in C-USA behind Southern Miss (77.3) and Houston (74.3). Here?s a comparison of UTEP?s individual free throw percentages in the first seven games and in the last five.

– Free Throw Percentages – Player First 7 Games Last 5 Games John Bohannon 6-11 (.545) 19-21 (.905) D?Von Campbell 6-8 (.750) 2-2 (1.000) C.J. Cooper 3-4 (.750) 4-4 (1.000) Cedrick Lang 7-14 (.500) 14-20 (.700) Gabriel McCulley 4-9 (.444) 16-21 (.762) Michael Perez 10-18 (.556) 18-22 (.818) Jalen Ragland 4-4 (1.000) 0-0 (.000) Jacques Streeter 19-28 (.679) 14-18 (.717) Julian Washburn 6-14 (.429) 5-8 (.625)

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE IS LOOKING PRETTY GOOD TOO UTEP has raised its season field goal percentage from .405 to .461 over the last eight games. The Miners have shot 49 percent or better in six of the last eight contests and 48.9 percent (193-for-395) collectively during that stretch. UTEP is now fourth in C-USA in shooting percentage behind Houston (.485), Memphis (.483) and Rice (.469).

MINERS GETTING THE MOST OUT OF DEPLETED BENCH With two big men out for the season (Malcolm Moore/torn ACL & Hooper Vint/bulging disk in his back), UTEP?s bench is thinner than ever. However, that hasn?t stopped the Miners from having a player score in double figures off the pine in a season-high four straight games. Cedrick Lang did the honors against McNeese State (12 points) & Auburn (10 points), C.J. Cooper did so versus Clemson (11 points) and John Bohannon achieved the feat against Kansas State (10 points). UTEP had an edge in bench points versus Auburn (17-11) for the first time in seven games, remarkable considering that the Miners played only three reserves (including D?Von Campbell?s 0+ minutes) and the Tigers played six.

DOUBLE DUTY FOR ?K.P.? Kevin Perry is one of seven student-athletes at FBS schools playing both football and basketball this season. The others are Darion Griswold (quarterback/forward, Arkansas State), Malcolm Mitchell (wide receiver/guard, Georgia), Jeremiah Ostrowski (wide receiver/guard, Hawaii), Ronald Martin (defensive back/guard, LSU), Andrew Jones (tight end/forward, Missouri) and Bruce Ellington (wide receiver/guard, South Carolina).

CLAMPING DOWN UTEP?s defensive gameplan under coach Tim Floyd involves getting the other team?s top offensive players out of sync. Here?s a look at the job UTEP has done defending teams? top scorers this year.

Opp. Leading Scorer Vs. UTEP UTSA Melvin Johnson III (14.9 ppg)* 9 pts (4-9 FG) UC Riverside Phil Martin (22.0 ppg) 6 pts (3-11 FG) @NM State Wendell McKines (16.0 ppg) 23 pts (5-13 FG) SFA Antonio Bostic (16.0 ppg) 18 pts (7-11 FG) @Oregon Garrett Sim (14.0 ppg) 2 pts (0-6 FG) NM State Wendell McKines (18.1 ppg) 4 pts (1-7 FG) at UNLV Chace Stanback (15.2 ppg) 5 pts (2-8 FG) Southern Derick Beltran (12.2 ppg) 9 pts (3-12 FG) McNeese State Patrick Richard (16.4 ppg) 12 pts (6-11 FG) Clemson Andre Young (13.7 ppg) 6 pts (1-9 FG) Kansas State Jamar Samuels (12.4 ppg) 10 pts (1-8 FG) Auburn Frankie Sullivan (14.4 ppg) 7 pts (2-5 FG)

* Scoring average from 2010-11 season

STARTING OVER UTEP has the fifth-most inexperienced team in the country in terms of returning point production.

SCHOOLS THAT RETURN LESS THAN 20 PERCENT OF THEIR POINTS St. John?s 3.7 percent (85-of-2,313) Towson 5.3 percent (109-of-2,053) Boston College 10.8 percent (263-of-2,440) Texas 17 percent (459-of-2,701) UTEP 17.5 percent (433-of-2,470) Fairleigh Dickinson 17.8 percent (333-of-1,866) Wofford 19.98 percent (500-of-2,502)

THE GRADUATE Forward Gabriel McCulley is the only senior on this year?s team and the only player with a degree in hand. He graduated from UTEP with a degree in Criminal Justice in December of 2010 and is pursuing his Masters in Leadership Studies.

FLOYD ERA CONTINUES Tim Floyd is in his second season as UTEP?s head coach after directing the Miners to 25 wins in his initial year at the helm of the program. Overall Floyd is 359-196 in his 18th year as a collegiate head coach with stops at Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98), USC (2005-09) and UTEP. Floyd?s teams have made 12 postseason tournament appearances, including eight trips to the NCAAs and four visits to the NIT.

NOTING UTEP?S ILLUSTRIOUS BASKETBALL HISTORY The Miners have won seven undisputed conference regular season titles in their basketball history, including in 1941 (Border Conference), 1957 (Border Conference), 1970 (Western Athletic Conference), 1984 (WAC), 1985 (WAC), 1987 (WAC) and 2010 (Conference USA). Overall UTEP has won 12 conference championships, including five that it shared with other teams in 1959 (Border Conference), 1983 (WAC), 1986 (WAC), 1992 (WAC) and 2004 (WAC). To this day, UTEP is the only Division I school in the state of Texas to win a national championship in men?s basketball with the storied 1966 title. UTEP has made 29 postseason tournament appearances, including 17 trips to the NCAAs.

Source: UTEP Athletics

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